PILOT MOUNTAIN — Town commissioners found themselves embroiled in a controversy on a possible conflict of interest by one board member on a rezoning request before the commissioners Monday night.
Mike Jessup, owner of Premium Tobacco, made the request to have his property located at the corner of Main and Friends street rezoned to General Business — Conditional District.
The property was zoned as residential prior to Monday night.
The single family dwelling at 529 N. Main Street currently operates as a business office and has done so for nearly the past two years, according to employees who spoke at the meeting.
Among those Premium Tobacco employees present at the meeting was commissioner Kim Quinn — the source of the conflict.
Town resident Mona Griffin stated that she was concerned about Quinn’s position in the matter. She felt there “was a great conflict of interest, being that she was an employee,” stated Griffin.
Quinn argued Griffin’s point was invalid before Griffin took her seat back in the audience. Quinn stated she, “did not have a conflict” with casting a vote unbiased to the issue.
Which Griffin replied, “You do, we all know you are living with the man. Now, I’m not going to argue with you ma’am.”
After the public hearing, Town Attorney Ed Woltz explained that after the previous commissioners meeting in October, Quinn expressed her concerns of a possible conflict of interest.
Woltz explained there are two types of conflict that could prevent a board member from voting in just a situation as the commissioner found themselves in.
The conflict could be either a perceived or real conflict, explained Woltz.
“If the matter involves a legislative land use matter, such as a rezoning or text amendment, the standard is a board member can not vote when the outcome of the matter is likely to have a direct, substantial, and readily identifiable personal financial impact,” said Woltz.
“The financial interest could be beneficial or detrimental,” said Woltz.
Woltz, stated that he did feel as though there was a real or “at least” perceived conflict involving Quinn’s vote on the matter.
“I don’t think there is,” stated Quinn.
Woltz explained the decision was up to Quinn as to whether or not she wanted to excuse herself from the vote.
Discussion among the board questioned Quinn’s vote as well. Commissioners Gary Bell and Linda Needham felt as though there was at least an ethical concern, and felt as though Quinn should not vote.
Initially, Quinn did was not going to excuse herself from the vote. However, after a short break Quinn asked to be excused from the vote.
To approve the property to be rezoned four actions had to be completed. A motion to adopt a Statement of Consistency, a motion to adopt a Statement of Reasonableness, a motion to approve, approve with conditions, deny or table the request to rezone the .43 acre parcel and finally,a motion to approve, approve with modifications, deny or table the submitted site plan.
A motion to adopt a statement consistency seemed to be troubling for the commissioners vote on. This motion is either to decide if either the proposed amendment is consistent with any adopted plan. After at least 30 minutes and multiple explanations from Michael Boaz, town manager and Andy Goodall, planning director.
Bell asked, “what happens if we don’t vote.”
Goodall explained that the board had to vote on the issue,” you can’t just not vote” stated Goodall. “We also can’t stay here until 10 o’clock for you decide either.”
The motion was passed unanimously.
A motion to adopt a statement of reasonableness. Again after some question by commissioner Bell, as to what exactly they were voting on and whether or not the vote would be detrimental to the surrounding neighbors. The board voted to adopt the Statement of Reasonableness, 2-1 Needham opposing.
Two conditions were added to the amendment after a lengthy discuss from the board to include, paint colors. Those conditions are as follows: Any facade improvements must come before the board for approval and no illuminating signage. The board voted 2-1, Needham opposing, to approve the plan with conditions.
It was with those two conditions the board finally approved the zoning amendment, unanimously.
The board voted to recess the remaining agenda until the meeting on Monday, Dec. 5 at 4:30 p.m.
Reach Eva Winemiller at (336) 415-4739